Archive for the 'physical science' Category

Teaching About Electricity


Chosen books could be used to help students investigate and understand the characteristics of electricity, such as conductors and electricity, basic circuits, static electricity, transformation of electrical energy into light, heat and mechanical energy, electromagnets, and historical  contributions in understanding electricity. Selected books are aimed for elementary school students but for different grade levels.

The short sections in “Electricity” make the book useful for different levels and for multiple activities and lessons. “Switch On, Switch Off” is perfect for use in young classrooms. The text is extremely kid-friendly, leaving out any elaborate, overwhelming explanations. “Flick a Switch” will help lower elementary students picture how electricity travels from power plants to their homes. Fourth and fifth grade physical science lessons can incorporate this book into electricity units about conductors,  insulators, electromagnetism, and historical figures who contributed to our understanding and use of electrical power. “Wired” is a great resource to help upper elementary school students learn about an important part of physical science; electricity, because it describes in great detail how electricity is created and how it is transported to different places, while still being fun with its illustrations and catchy subtitles. “The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip” can be used to cover a wide range of science topics in regards to energy in grades 3-5. The book covers information on different sources of energy, magnetism, electrons and atoms, and explains the science behind how many things work.


Electricity, a DK Eyewitness book written and illustrated by Steve Parker, is a great introduction to electricity. The book is written in short sections with one topic per two pages spread. There are lots of pictures which makes the book very visually interesting. Each section discusses the science behind electricity and includes information about important historical scientists. Topics covered include Circuits and Conductors, Electromagnets, Discoveries using electricity, Electricity in the home, and more.

Students can learn more about electric circuits with the interactive Blobz Guide to Electric Circuits.

Teachers can explore static electricity with this experiment.

 “Switch On, Switch Off”

Light switches are everywhere! They are in every house: in the kitchen, the bedroom, the office, the bathroom…but are they really magic? When it’s time for bed and mom yells “lights out.” is it truly magic within that switch that allows the room to get dark? Switch On, Switch Off, written by Melvin Berger and illustrated by Carolyn Crolll, is an excellent resource for your children to begin exploring the magic within the light switch, or what is better know as electricity. The story begins just this way, with a child heading to bed, curious as to how his light switch operates. This commences the lesson where Berger youthfully explains circuits, generators, light bulbs, and plugs, thus demonstrating how electricity is produced and even used. With the help of Croll’s easy to understand illustrations, children can not only read about electricity, but they can see pictures that enforce how the process works. The author even offers a live experiment that children can do to create their own electricity using just a magnet, compass and a piece of wire.

Electricity Circuits and Conductors is a great interactive tool for children to experiment with electricity conductors.

Electricity and Magnetism is a help site for children to utilize if they have questions or need clarification about the concepts. Within  specific sections under various topics are games, activities,histories, and helpful hints.

Electricity Teaching Resources is a site to be used by teachers wishing to explore electiricty with students. The site contains, activites, games, teaching strategies, physical science links, quizzes, tests and more!

“Flick a Switch”

You flick a switch to turn on a light or to turn on your computer. You know electricity makes it happen; but, where does the electricity come from? The path electricity takes from the power plant to homes and businesses is described in Flick a Switch: How Electricity Gets to Your Home written by Barbara Seuling with illustrations by Nancy Tobin. This book uses straight-forward language and bright, kid-friendly drawings to help children understand the science and technology behind generating electricity. Simple activities that use everyday items to demonstrate electrical circuits are included.

When you hear the name Thomas Edison you think light bulb. When you hear Ben Franklin you think electricity. But what do you think when you hear Michael Faraday? Learn more about Michael Faraday, whose work with electromagnetism made the generators in power plants possible.

Benjamin Franklin was an inventor. This website helps students understand Benjamin Franklin’s contributions. Drawings were done by other students and they all wrote a sentence about who Ben Franklin was. This a way for students to learn from their peers as well as to see other points of view on Ben Franklin.


Wired, written by Anastasia Suen and illustrated by Paul Carrick, is a physical science book for students related to electricity. The book starts out by explaining the importance of electrons and describing how electricity is made at the power plant. It goes on to explain the different types of vehicles used to transport electricity to surrounding areas and cities (transformer towers, feeder line, secondary wires, ect.) As one reads the book, he or she can see that the author is explaining the process of how electricity is created and moved to other places step by step. The pictures start out showing the power plant, and end up illustrating the ways electricity is used around the house in lamps, computers, breakers, and more. The book ends with a few tips for children on how to “Be Smarter About Power!” and lists some websites and other book resources where children can find more about electricity.

“The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip”

The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip, takes Ms. Frizzle’s students through the concepts of electricity in an exciting field trip. The field trip begins when the power goes out at school and Ms. Frizzle takes the students on a journey to find out the problem. Power lines are down in the streets and the students begin their exploration at a power plant. The students travel through steam and a turbine and enter into power lines. From there they travel to the library, explore inside a light bulb, continue on to a restaurant and Phoebe’s house, and then return back to the school. Throughout the storm many topic of energy are covered such as; how to make an electromagnet, different sources of energy, how a motor works, how a TV works, how a switch works, how steam works, and how to make a mini-power plant. It also discusses electrons and atoms.

The Florida Project Learning Three has a great resources for teachers to use with The Magic School Bus and the Electric Filed Trip on activity. The packet includes discussion questions, vocabulary words, vocabulary practice, worksheets, comprehension questions, sequencing practice worksheets, and writing exercises.

Hotchalk has a good three week unit for students to learn about electricity. Topics include: renewable energy, wind turbines, testing electric currents, and energy resources.






The Virginia Standards of Learning include shadows in the kindergarten science curriculum.  In kindergarten students are expected to learn that shadows occur by blocking light.  Shadows can be fun to learn about and play with.  Here are some great resources I found to help students learn about shadows!



Nothing Sticks Like a Shadow written by Ann Tompert, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

This is a fun book for children to read!  Woodchuck bets Rabbit his hat that Rabbit will not be able to escape his shadow.  Rabbit spends all day trying to get away, but has no luck.  It is not until night falls and the moon moves behind a cloud that Rabbits shadow disappears and he wins the bet!


Shadows and Relections written and illustrated by Tana Hoban

Tana Hoban uses a series of photographs to allow children to explore shadows and reflections.  The beautiful photographs will provoke both discussion and questions from young children.


What Makes a Shadow? written by Clyde Roberta Bulla, illustrated by June Otani

This book is part of the Lets-Read-and-Find-Out series by Harper Collins.  It is written for kindergarten aged children, so it is right on their comprehension level.   What Makes a Shadow? teaches children how shadows are made and even goes into an explanation of night and day.


Guess Whose Shadow? written by Stephen R. Swinburne

Stephen Swilburnes’ book of photographs show children that everything has a shadow.  The book invites children to guess what made the shadow, with the answer given on the next page!


Light: Shadows, Mirrors, and Rainbows  written by Natalie M. Rosinsky, illustrated by Sheree Boyd

This book is part of the Amazing Science series by Picture Window Books.  This is written as a science concept book, but it is written clearly and concisely on the kindergarten level.  This book not only discusses shadows but light as a whole, making it a great addition to any units on light.

Interactive Student Resources

  • Tigger’s Shadow Shapes– Match objects to their shadows!
  • Blue’s Clues’ Shadows— Help Blue figure out what the shadow belongs to!
  • My Shadow— An interactive ebook of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, “My Shadow”
  • Shadows— A simple shadow interactive to help children understand how light can effect a shadows size.
  • Sun, Light, and Shadows— This game allows children to experiment with light to make shadows bigger or smaller, sharper or dimmer, or change the location of the shadow, all by altering the light source!

Additional Resources

  • Hand Shadow Puppets— Great shadow puppets to teach to your class!
  • Preschool Shadow Theme— While intended for a slightly younger audience, many of these resources can be used in a kindergarten classroom to teach about shadows!
  • PEEP and the Big Wide World— This site contains links to four different videos about shadows.  Many of the videos give fun  suggestions for activities.  This site also contains printouts to send home to get parents involved with the learning!
  • SteveSongs fun Shadow Song:

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Teaching Physical Science Through Children’s Literature: Amazing Magnetism


Amazing Magnetism by Rebecca Carmi is another wonderful addition to the Magic School Bus series.  This is one of in the collection of chapter books, but even though it is longer than the typical Magic School Bus book, it does not fail in grabbing kids attention and sparking their interest in science.  The crazy shenanigans Ms Frizzle’s class gets themselves into this time is a science challenge with Mr. Neatly’s science class, who always wins everything.  As with any Magic School Bus story Ms. Frizzle’s class learns about magnets in a way that no other class can!

Even though this is longer, its short chapters make it easy for kids to keep their attention, while also making it easy to break up into several days of reading.  This makes the book great for younger students, but can easily be read by older students as well.  No matter what age kid, all will find this an informative while enjoyable read.

Curriculum Connections
Teachers will appreciate how easy this book is to tie into science curriculum for many different grades.  Magnetism is a topic that students study throughout school, and when they are in high school they will remember this book.  Attraction and repulsion, having two poles, magnetic properties in metals (2.2), the idea that the earth is one giant magnet (6.8) are all in this book.

Additional Resources

  • Practical Physics provides a simple experiment to introduce students to the properties of magnets, such as attraction and repulsion, magnets in compasses, and what is and is not attracted to magnets.
  • Fun Science is a site for kids covering many different science topics in life and physical science.  This site has games covering all elementary science topics.  Here students will find games about magnetism, food chains, electricity, energy, force and much, much more.
  • Magnet Races provides another fun activity to reinforce the properties of magnets.  Children create magnet boats with soap and race them using a large bar magnet at the other end.

Book: Amazing Magnetism
Written by: Rebecca Carmi
Illustrated by: John Speirs 
Publication Date:2002
Pages: 192 pages
Grade range:  2nd- 6th Grade

    Teaching Physical Science with Children’s Literature: Secrets of Sound!

    April Sayre's Book Secrets of Sound: Studying the Calls and Songs of Whales, Elephants, and Birds

    “The satisfaction comes from knowing that I am constantly
    in the world of discovery, where I am encouraged to use my
    imagination, creativity, and intelligence for the purpose of
    learning about life in all its incredible forms.” (pg. 23)

    April Pulley Sayre, author and photographer of Secrets of sound: studying the calls and songs of whales, elephants, and birds,  has added  yet another exciting, informative book to the Scientists in the Field Series. Secrets of sound explores the work of acoustic biologists in three distinct habitats of whales, elephants, and birds.

    Sayre introduces the reader to three scientists€”Christopher W. Clark, Katy Payne, and Bill Evans€”who have dedicated themselves to researching animal communication. This book reveals the scientists’ use of new technologies and secret military information to make exciting discoveries. In addition, Secrets of Sound demonstrates the role of scientific research in studying the calls and sound of animals and in preserving endangered animals. While celebrating the methods and challenges of lab and fieldwork, this book also highlights the satisfaction of results.

    Curriculum Connections
    Sound is one of the many topics within the field of Physical Science.  Secrets of Sound  takes the reader from Texas to Hawaii to Africa, revealing the scientific methods used in the work of three bioacousticians. The text can be a bit dense, but it is a great way to introduce the main ideas such as frequency, waves, wavelengths, and vibrations of animal sounds (5.2 a,c). The reader clearly views the process behind the observation and measurement of the data collected in all three studies (6.1 a,c,h). There are also various graphical representations included in the book (6.1 i). Additionally, the last page of the book includes a glossary of words such as “frequency,” “pitch,”and “hertz,” to name a few.

    Additional Resources

    • Interactive Science Movie on Sound! In the movie, you'll find out how sound and ocean waves are similar, yet different, as you learn about different kinds of waves. See how air molecules, air pressure, pitch, and vibration all play a part in everything you hear. Plus, you'll be introduced to a cool mechanism designed to measure sound waves! Discover how fast sound can travel through mediums like air, water, and steel. And see how aquatic animals like whales use sound to communicate underwater!
    • Night-Migrating Bird Calls! Get instructions for building your own microphone! You can set up a night-flight call monitoring station at your home or at your school and then connect with others doing the same via the Oldbird Web site.

    General Information

    Book: Secrets of sound: studying the calls and songs of whales, elephants, and birds
    Author & Photographer: April Pulley Sayre
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
    Publication Date: 2002
    Pages: 63
    Grade Range: 5-6
    ISBN: 0-618-01514-0

    Teaching Physical Science with Children's Literature: Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids

    isaac newtown

    Kerrie Logan Hollihan has written a great book called Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids that introduces students to the brilliant life and works of the famous mind of Isaac Newton.  Many people know of Newton through the anecdote about the apple, or from his laws of motion, but as this book shows there was so much more to the man.  Starting with his parents, Hollihan lets us meet the real Isaac Newton, with all his flaws, and goes in depth about his discoveries in physics, astronomy, optics, and mathematics.  Best of all, this book matches the information with 21 activities that students can perform, all of which Newton did himself.

    Curriculum Connections
    While the book’s notes recommend it for ages 9-12, after reading it I would say that 11-14 is more appropriate. It would be a perfect tie in for investigating and understanding scientific principles and technological applications of work, force, and motion (PS.10).  It is also a great biographical text for students to understand one of the greatest thinkers in history.

    Additional Resources

    General Information

    Book: Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities
    Author: Kerrie Logan Hollihan
    Illustrator: Laura D’Argo
    Publisher: Chicago Review Press
    Publication Date: 2009
    Pages: 131
    Grade Range: 5-9
    ISBN: 978-1556527784

    Teaching Physical Science with Children’s Literature: A Color Sampler


    A Color Sampler written by Kathleen Westray describes how to create colors by using primary colors, secondary colors and intermediate colors.  The twelve colors that make up the color wheel (primary, secondary and intermediate colors) can be mixed to make up hundreds of other colors.  An example would be if someone wanted to create the color citron, green and red would be added together. The book describes how to make the color black and shows how adding black and white can change a color.  The book plays with color showing how a color will look lighter against a dark shade and lighter when placed against white. This visuals in this book help to support the color creations.  Colors that go well together are called complementary colors; they are created when a color is matched with a color directly across from it on the color wheel.  
    “Color is everywhere, and everything has color. The variety of color is endless…and this is just a sampler”.

    Curriculum Connections

    This would be a great book for an early elementary school student.  It shows a color swatch of each color along with the written word.  A Color Sampler would be a great book to introduce students to colors and how colors are made (K.4 a). The book also shows what happens when black (darkens) or white (lightens) an existing color. The book plays with shapes and colors by showing how a color can look darker or lighter depending on the location of each color or shape.

    Additional Resources

    Students can play Mix and Paint with Curious George from PBS Kids. Students can pick which picture they would like to paint and then with the help of Curious George they can create colors from white, red, blue and yellow. It makes learning about color creations fun!

    Teachers or parents can print off color pages from Kids Color Pages with over one thousand categories to pick from. This would also be a great way to bring in material from other subject areas.

    Mixing colors is a great lesson plan for teachers.  In this hands-on activity students can mix colors with shaving cream in a Ziploc bag and watch the color change. After the colors have been mixed, students can then paint with the new color they just made.

    Book: A Color Sampler
    Author: Kathleen Westray
    Illustrator: N/A
    Publisher: Ticknor & Fields
    Publication Date: 1993
    Pages: 28
    Grade Range: k-5
    ISBN: 0-395-65940-X

    Teaching Physical Science with Children’s Literature: Electricity


    Electricity, a DK Eyewitness book written by Steve Parker, is a great introduction to electricity.  The book is written in short sections with one topic per two page spread.  There are lots of pictures which make the book very visually interesting.  Each section discusses the science behind electricity and includes information about important historical scientists.  Topics covered include Circuits and Conductors, Electromagnets, Discoveries using electricity, Electricity in the home, and more.

    Curriculum Connections

    This book could be used help students investigate and understand the characteristics of electricity (VA SOL 4.3) like conductors and electricity (4.3a), basic circuits (4.3b), static electricity (4.3c), transformation of electrical energy into light, heat, and mechanical energy (4.3d), electromagnets (4.3e), and historical contributions in understanding electricity (4.3f).  The short sections make it conducive to using the book to supplement multiple activities and lessons.

    Additional Resources

    Learn more about electric circuits with the interactive Blobz Guide to Electric Circuits.

    Play this Conductors and Insulators game to learn more about electricity.

    Explore Static Electricity with this experiment.

    General Information

    Book: Electricity
    Author: Steve Parker
    Illustrator: DK Eyewitness Books
    Publisher: DK Eyewitness Books
    Publication date: 1992, republished 2005
    Pages: 72
    Grade Range: 3-5
    ISBN: 0756613884

    Teaching Physical Science with Children’s Literature: Wow! Said the Owl

    Wow! Said the Owl

    There is no shortage of books about colors, but Tim Hopgood has written and illustrated a particularly satisfying story with Wow! Said the Owl.  One curious little owl takes a long nap at night (“instead of staying awake all night , as little owls are supposed to do”) so that she can stay awake and see the dawn.  Following is page after page of bright colors from the yellow of the sun to the green of the trees to the red of the butterflies and orange flowers. Young children will love the bright collage style illustrations, the simple predictable language, and the cycle of night-to-day-to-night.  Teachers will appreciate the opportunity to teach or reinforce color identification with the color wheel at the end of the book that encourages kids to “Look through the pages [of the book] and see if you can find them.”

    Curriculum Connections

    This book is best suited for the early elementary curriculum when students are learning to make basic observations of objects (K.1a) and the physical properties like color that can be used to describe them (K.4a). Young children will love playing a modified version of “I Spy” using this book for inspiration.  The teacher should model the game by telling children that she/he is going to close his/her eyes and pretend to be the baby owl who has never seen daylight before.  When the teacher opens his or her eyes, he should say “Wow! said the owl…… I see something [color].” and encourage the children to guess what he or she sees.  If children are having difficulty, additional physical properties can be introduced like shape and size to help children guess the object.  After the teacher has modeled the game several times, children can take turns being the baby owl. As a follow up activity, students can take a walk together outside and look for objects with particular colors.

    Additional Resources

    • Caterpillar Circles and Colors -This printable can be used to test color knowledge.  By numbering the circles, teachers can then call out a color and a number and ask students to color the appropriate numbered circle.
    • Owl Coloring Sheet – This printable is an accurate representation of a barn owl and a good way to connect the lesson to a life science lesson as well.
    • Can You Guess the Color? – This song or poem is a wonderful way for young children to make associations between objects and colors.
    • Color Activities – This website includes numerous printables, games, and activities for teachers to use when teaching colors to young children.
    • A Rainbow of Color Activities – This website includes books, printables, songs, games, and lots of other activities for teachers to use when teaching colors to young children.

    Book: Wow! Said the Owl
    Author and Illustrator: Tim Hopgood
    Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    Publication Date: 2009
    Pages: 32
    Grade Range: PreK
    ISBN: 0374385181

    Teaching Physical Science with Children’s Literature: Properties


    Introduction and Summary:
    Properties by DeltaScienceReaders is a beginning reader book that is set up in the style of a textbook but in a much small version. The first page is the table of contents and asks the student to “Think about…” and then list out: matter, properties, solid, liquid, gas. There is also a section on “People in science”. This section talks about geologists and explains what a geologist does. I liked this because the geologist pictured is a woman and in science there are few female scientists shown in books. The book explains everything in kid language and has a lot of great pictures. When discussing properties, there is a page that asks the student to identify on the page what objects are soft and what objects are hard? A teacher could take similar pictures and create a worksheet with matching. The book goes on to explain magnets and then asks the student which of the photographs would a magnet attract. When explaining liquids, solids and gases, the book explains that
    “All liquids flow. Some liquids are easy to pour. Some are hard to pour. Some things float on liquids. Some things sink in liquids.” I like how the book puts keywords and terms in bold and at the end of the book there is a glossary of terms.

    Curriculum Connections:
    This book covers K.3 a and b, K.4 a,b, c, d and K.5a and c.  The introduces magnets and magnetism(K.3a andb).  This book would be great at the end or beginning of the unit on magnets. The book also introduces comparisons of color, shapes, textures, sizes and weight. (K.4a-d). The book explains the phases that water goes through and introduces the concept that some things float and some things sink.

    Additional Resources:
    Ms. Lee’s Kindergarten Experiments with Science
    is a great website for teaching Liquids and Solids to young students. The site has what experiments she conducted in her class and how to do them. It also has pictures of the kids doing the experiments.
    is an experiment found on The Franklin Institute website. It is a step by step on how to conduct an experiment in classifying objects such as buttons, leaves and peanuts in their shells. It suggests using peanuts but because of allergies, teachers may have to find some other object to classify.
    Changing State is an interactive activity on changing liquids to solids and gas. It is something that a student could see on a projection screen and it asks questions at each step. It would be too hard for some younger students to read on their own but they would be able to tell what everything is by the pictures.
    Blue Goo is an experiment on the National Geographic website using water, cornstarch and blue food coloring. It explains the experiments and even prompts teachers to ask about before and after doing the experiment.

    General Information:
    Book: Properties
    Author: DeltaScienceReaders
    Publisher: Delta Education
    Publication Date: 2003
    Grade Range:Kindergarten through 1st grade
    ISBN: 1-59242-251-9



    Teaching Physical Science With Children’s Literature: If You Find a Rock


     “If you find a rock, a nice flat,

    rounded rock that sits just right in the crook of your finger,

    then you have found a skipping rock.” Or, “Maybe you find a soft white rock

    a rock that feels dusty in your fingers.  Then you have a chalk

    rock, and you use it to make pictures on the pavement.”

    Introduction and Summary

    If You Find a Rock written by, Peggy Christian and photographed by, Barbara Hirsch Lember is a whimsical children’s book about the hidden elegance and uses of rocks.  This book inspires natural curiosity and discovery and encourages us all to slow down, relax and discover the natural wonders of rocks.  The author describes many different types of rocks that one might find on a nature walk.  They are described by their shape, size, color and other physical characteristics as well as ideas of what the kind of rock you find might be good for.  Children  have never been able to help collecting rocks and this book gives them a way to classify thier collection.  You might find a splashing rock or a skipping rock or a wishing rock or a resting rock, this book celebrates rocks and where they might be found.

    Curricular Connections

    This would be a great book to use as a read aloud for young students when introducing physical science.  The book describes rocks, where you find them and what you could do with them in many different ways.  It also describes many physical attributes and characteristics of different kinds of rocks.  This book is definitely a good classroom conversation starter.  The book does not use many scientific terms so it’s a good jumping off point when introducing how physical properties of an object can be described.   It leaves room for the teacher to discuss physical properties like color, shape, texture as well as size and weight of objects.  (K.4 a, b, c, d)

    Additional Resources

    Here are some useful sites that may accompany this book well.

    Try this site that has lots of great information on how to classify rocks and where they come from.  This site can be used with older students or as teacher background knowledge.

    This is a nice interactive site that can be used with older kids and to provide background knowledge for younger children.

    This is a great site to use for a teacher resource.  It provides a compilation list of many, many websites that a teacher may look through to get information on teaching about rocks.

    This website provides ideas for lesson plans about rocks.  It includes four days of plans on different topics related to the physical science of rocks.  The ideas include, What are rocks and how are they formed?, My life as a rock., How do rocks cycle on the Earth?, How can rock properties help to identify rocks?  The site also includes resources for teacher background knowledge and links to other books that may be used with the lessons.

    There are so many great sites that have to do with rocks and here is another one.  It is complete with another list of books about rocks that would be appropriate for young readers and activities to build curiosity about rocks.

    General Information

    Book:  If You Find a Rock

    Author:  Peggy Christian

    Illustrator:  Barbara Hirsch Lember

    Publisher:  Voyager Books Harcourt, INC.

    Publication Date:  2000

    Pages:  32

    Grade Range:  K-4

    ISBN:  9780152063542